NEW DELHI: Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli and world champion weightlifter Mirabai Chanu were named by the Sports Ministry for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. The two will receive the honour on September 25. But the decision has not gone down well with other athletes.
As per a report in The Times of India, skipper Kohli got 'zero' points by the 11-member panel which decides the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards while Chanu earned 44 points. Wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat got a total of 80 points each, were among six others who totalled more than Chanu, but lost out on the award. Despite the marking scheme, the final decision to name the awardees for the country's highest sports award is done by a show of hands.
Kohli did not score any point as there is no criteria that has been set for cricket, which is not an Olympic sport. Selection of cricketers for the award thus often lead to a controversy.
Dejected over the denial of the award, Bajrang Punia said he was "hurt" as he questioned the selection criteria for the award. "I am hurt for not being recognised for my talent and performances, I don't know what was the criteria of selection for this award," he said.
He said that he tried to reach out to Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, but did not get any reply from him. "I am going to meet him in person to enquire about the matter. Now my hopes are pinned on Rathore as I believe I am one of the eligible candidates for the award," he said.
"I'm really disappointed and shocked. I'm meeting Sports Minister tomorrow after (mentor) Yogi bhai (Yogeshwar Dutt) spoke to him and arranged the meeting. I just want to know why I was being ignored. I want to know the reason," he added.
Punia won gold medals in the Asian Games at Jakarta and the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. His list of laurels are not limited to one season, as he had won a World Championship bronze medal in 2013 and silver in 2014. "Anyone can see my record. I have performed consistently for my country. I don't know what else is there to be done.
He also threatened to move court if he fails to convince the Sports Minister. "It would be the last option. I feel I deserve the award this year and that's why I have applied for it. One doesn't feel good to beg for an award but it is the biggest honour for any sportsperson and a wrestler's career is very uncertain. Anytime an injury can end your career," he said.
"It's in his hands now. I want to know whether I am deserving or not. If I deserve then only give me the award," he said ahead of his meeting with Rathore.
Insisting that he has support from all quarters, Bajrang said he will not involve the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) in this matter. "I didn't talk to the federation about this matter. They have forwarded my name that means they are with me. But this is my personal fight," he said.